Hallucinogens and Culture

Mushroom of the Underworld

Actually, Thompson was only partly right when he said that the Spaniards were silent on the matter of hallucinogens among the Maya, for several of the early dictionaries compiled by Spanish priests in the Guatemalan highlands demonstrate considerable Indian knowledge of the intoxicating effects of a number of mushroom species.* One of the oldest of the Colonial word lists, the Vico dictionary, which was apparently compiled well before the 1550's, explicitly mentions a mushroom called xibalbaj...

LSD and Parkinsons Disease

In a very real sense the circle is also closing with respect to Hofmann's hope, expressed at the time of his epoch-making discovery of LSD, that because of its ability to mimic certain mental illnesses the drug might prove useful in their treatment. In fact, LSD has been employed to that end over the years by some psychiatrists, often with beneficial results. However, the potency of LSD and the severe legal limitations imposed in recent years on its use even under controlled scientific...

Ololiuhqui Identified

In 1934 Reko published the first historical review of ololiuhqui use, and again identified it correctly with Rivea corymbosa. Three years later, C. G. Santesson (1937) finally dispelled the notion that the Convolvulaceae, specifically R. corymbosa, lacked hallucinogenic principles, although the precise nature of the psychoactive alkaloids could not be determined. Then, in 1939, Schultes and Reko, while on a field trip through Mexico, for the first time encountered a cultivated species of R....

Effects of Datura Intoxication

The four subgroups of the genus are (1) Stramonium, with three species in the two hemispheres (2) Dutra, with six species (3) Ceratocaulis, with only one, but very interesting, semiaquatic Mexican species whose supernatural spirit Indian curers invoke for the treatment of certain diseases and (4) Brugmansia, a group of tree Daturas with often very showy flowers that were formerly exclusive to South America but are now found in many parts of the world as cultivated ornamentals. Depending on...

Analogies in Asian Mythology

The use of Bufo poison as magical folk medicine in Mexico recalls Chinese Taoist and derivative Japanese traditions of the Gama sennin, a wise teacher and accomplished herbalist who lived alone in the mountains in the company of a giant toad. The toad, who in some versions is really the Gama sennin himself (Gama means toad in Japanese), taught him the magical and healing arts, including the making of pills that enabled him to transform at will into toad form. There are also Japanese and earlier...

Mushroom Stones and the Cult of Sacred Mushrooms

Mention in several of the early sources on Guatemalan Maya languages of a mushroom specifically named for the underworld i.e. the realm of the dead is especially interesting in light of the discovery of a ceremonial cache of nine beautifully sculptured miniature mushroom stones and nine miniature metates grinding stones , dating back some 2,200 years, in a richly furnished tomb at Kaminaljuyu, a late Preclassic and Early Classic archaeological site near Guatemala City. The coincidence of the...

The Virola Tree as a Source of Snuff

Halllucinogens

But even this corrected classification did not clear up all the confusion, because snuffs were attributed by many writers to Anadenanthera, whether or not that genus actually occurred locally, and even though the observed method of preparation suggested that several different and even unrelated species might be involved. The mystery was cleared up when several species of Virola, a tree belonging not, like Anadenanthera, to the Leguminoseae pea family but, like nutmeg, to the Myristicaceae, were...

The Fly Agaric and the Intoxicating Urine

There was one aspect of Siberian mushroom intoxication, reported even in the earliest sources, that must have seemed singularly shocking to one who encountered it for the first time the drinking of the urine of a bemushroomed person, and also the urine of reindeer that had browsed as reindeer apparently like to do on the fly-agaric. By no means all the tribes that used Amanita muscaria also drank fly-agaric urine, but the custom was sufficiently well-developed and widespread to have drawn the...

Psychedelic Enemas

The rubber enema syringe is actually a South American Indian invention, but other suitable materials were also employed for the bulb. Intoxicating as well as medicinal enemas have been described both in the earliest European accounts of native customs, dating to the sixteenth century, and in the more recent ethnographic literature. Tobacco juice, ayahuasca Banisteriopsis caapi , and even a species of Anadenanthera A. colubrina whose seeds huiica or wilka were used for hallucinogenic snuff and...

Antiquity and Origins of the Mushroom Cult

It can of course be argued that the two great mushroom traditions, that of New World Indians and that of the peoples of Eurasia, are historically unconnected and autonomous, having arisen spontaneously in the two regions from similar requirements of the human psyche and similar environmental opportunities. But are they really unrelated A good though controversial case has been made by some prehistorians for sporadic early contacts across the Pacific between the budding civilizations of the New...

New Finding Three Species of Cannabis

Spp. is the conventional abbreviation for species in the plural. It may come as something of a surprise that contrary to conventional wisdom Cannabis should be treated as a multispecies genus rather than as a single species, Cannabis sativa L., with several geographical or ecological varieties (e.g. C. mexicana, C. americana gigantea , and C. indica) but not separate species. In this I follow a new determination by Schultes and his colleagues (1974 337-360), who have now accepted as correct...

LSDlike Compounds in Morning Glory Seeds

Initial chemical-analytical studies with Wasson's small samples proved exciting enough they indicated the presence of indole compounds structurally related to LSD and the ergot alkaloids. These preliminary results caused Hofmann to ask Wasson for larger quantities of these interesting seeds. Wasson enlisted the aid of the veteran Mexican ethnologist Roberto Weitlaner, like B. P. Reko of Austrian birth, an untiring field ethnologist even when he was well into his seventies, and his daughter...

Snuffing in Mexico

Now we give attention to Mexico and the archaeological evidence for an ancient snuffing complex that dates back at least to the second millennium BC, apparently became extinct as a major technique of ritual intoxication before AD 1000, and today survives only in remote mountain areas of Oaxaca and Guerrero, where some curers are said to inhale the pulverized seeds of the morning glory (T. Knab, personal communication, based on the unpublished field notes of the late botanist Thomas McDougall)....

Morning Glory and Mother Goddess

In Spanish the seeds of the morning glory are commonly known as semilla de la Virgen, seed of the Virgin. The extraordinary importance of the doncella, niha or young maiden, in the preparation of the morning-glory infusion as well as the sacred mushrooms and other divinatory agents has been noted by Wasson (1967a), who thought the Indians might have seized on Christian iconography in this connection because it was already familiar to them in their own supernatural system. I think he was quite...

Urgently Needed An Integrated Perspective

It is clearly society, not chemistry, that is the variable, since the same or chemically similar drugs can function so differently in different cultural situations, or be venerated over centuries as sacred, benign, and culturally integrative in some contexts but regarded in others as inherently so evil and dangerous that their very possession constitutes a serious crime. Likewise, it is obviously culture and the attitudes and stereotypes it fosters not any inherent characteristics or even their...

The Fly Agaric Mushroom Of Immortality

The Koryaks of Siberia have a marvelous tale in which the culture hero Big Raven has caught a whale but discovers that he cannot return him to his proper home in the sea because he is not strong enough to lift the grass bag with the provisions the whale requires to sustain himself on the long voyage. Big Raven appeals to the great deity Vahiyinin, which means Existence, and Vahiyinin tells him to go to a certain place where he will find spirit beings called wapaq. If he eats some of these wapaq...

Soul Shattering Happening

In 1953 the Wassons went to Oaxaca for the first time, but another two years passed before they were able to develop a sufficiently warm bond of trust with their Indian hosts to be permitted to partake of the sacred mushrooms. So, in 1955, Wasson and a companion, Alan Richardson, became the first outsiders to actually participate in a mushroom curing ceremony an unforgettable experience, Wasson later reported, that was to profoundly affect him, who by his cultural inheritance had once utterly...

Natural and Cultural History of Datura

Unlike peyote and other exclusively New World hallucinogens, the genus Datura is cosmopolitan and it and other members of the Solanaceae (potato or nightshade family) have played a role in religion, magic, divination, sorcery, and medicine in different parts of the world, apparently since ancient times. The family consists of more than 90 genera, with no less than 2,400 species, including such disparate plants as the potato, eggplant, nightshade, peppers, tomato, tobacco, petunia, Datura, and...

The Sacred Mushrooms Rediscovery In Mexico

If true, surely one of the more significant developments in the study of the ritual use of plant hallucinogens in Middle America is the recent spate of reports that at least some individuals in two Maya populations in southern Mexico are employing the psychoactive mushroom Stropharia cubensis* in the context of religious ceremony, divination, or curing. The two groups for which this has been reported but not as yet wholly confirmed by scientifically trained observers are the Choi, who live not...

Archaeological Evidence for the Earliest Hallucinogen

This value given to freedom is especially noteworthy in that in The Natural Mind (1972), Dr. Andrew T. Weil has argued that the desire to alter consciousness periodically is an innate, normal drive analogous to hunger or the sexual drive (p. 17). While drugs are only one means of satisfying this drive, he maintained, it is nevertheless this inborn biological as opposed to socioculturally conditioned need of the psyche for periods of nonordinary consciousness that accounts for the near-universal...

Other Pathways to Alternate States

Nor do I mean to imply that psychoactive plants or animal secretions have always and everywhere been the only, or even the principal, means of achieving altered states of consciousness. On the contrary, over vast areas of North America many aboriginal peoples achieved the same ends by nonchemical means fasting, thirsting, self-mutilation, torture, exposure to the elements, sleeplessness, incessant dancing and other means of total exhaustion, bleeding, plunging into ice-cold pools,...

The Diabolic Root

The earliest hallucinogenic cactus depicted in ancient American art is a tall, columnar member of the Cereus family, Trichocereus pachanoi, the mescaline-containing San Pedro of the folk healers of coastal Peru (Sharon, 1972). San Pedro has been identified in the funerary effigy pottery and painted textiles of Chavin, the oldest of a long succession of Andean civilizations, dating to ca. 1000 BC, and also in the ceremonial art of the later Moche and Nazca cultures, which gives this sacred...

God of Flowers and Flowery Dream

Recently, Wasson (1973), with the expert assistance of Schultes, has again contributed in a major way to our understanding of central Mexican symbolism with an analysis of the floral decorations on a famous stone sculpture of the Aztec God of Flowers, Xochipilli, in the Museo Nacional de Antropolog a in Mexico City, In addition to what he believes to be stylized depictions of the hallucinogenic mushroom Psilocybe aztecorum, he and Schultes identified flowers carved on the god's left leg as...

Tobacco Proper Food Of The Gods

The Spanish clergy from the first classified tobacco alongside peyote, morning glories, and mushrooms as a ritual intoxicant of traditional Indian culture. This fact may come as a surprise, but the ministers of the Colonial church knew whereof they spoke. The natural and cultural history of tobacco (Nicotiana spp.) as an aboriginal American cultigen as much unknown to the rest of the world less than 500 years ago as were chocolate, maize, and rubber is too complex and too extensive to fit into...

Gods and Men as Tobacco Addicts

I do not wish to imply that tobacco was universally employed to trigger alternate states of consciousness. On the contrary, it probably served a greater variety of sacred purposes than any other plant in the New World, among its most important and virtually universal functions being that of divine sustenance for the gods, mainly in the form of smoke it also served as an indispensable adjunct of shamanic curing, primarily as a supernaturally charged fumigant but sometimes also as a panacea. Yet...

The Antiquity of Tobacco in America

How ancient is tobacco in the New World Its spectacular aboriginal distribution and the striking similarity of tobacco ideology suggest that it is very old indeed. It is entirely possible that the progenitors ofN. rustica and N. tabacum are the most ancient cultivated plants in the Americas, older even than the earliest varieties of maize and other native American food plants, whose initial domestication in southeastern Mexico dates to ca. 4000-5000 BC There is of course no reason why the first...

Journeys into Mythic Time

All of this is very true, and obviously is of great significance not only to psychology and psychotherapy but also to the ethnology of religion and the ecstatic experience. But it is important to note that the phenomenon of plunging the mind into myth or mythic time, that is, into a time when everything is possible, is larger than the choice of a particular alkaloid or group of related alkaloids, because, as we know, other plants with active principles that belong to different groups than the...

Ecstatic Shamanism as lrReligion

Now, as we know from ethnology, the symbolic systems or religions of hunting peoples everywhere are essentially shamanistic, sharing so many basic features over time and space as to suggest common historical and psychological origins. At the center of shamanistic religion stands the personality of the shaman and the ecstatic experience that is uniquely his, in his crucial role as diviner, seer, magician, poet, singer, artist, prophet of game and weather, keeper of the traditions, and healer of...

Was the Fly Agaric Sacred to the Maya

Mushroom effigies of fired clay have also been found in Mexico, as well as South America. Wasson himself has in his collection a fine terracotta mushroom priestess in the Classic Veracruz style, probably from the middle of the first millennium A.D., and I have been able to identify a number of ceramic mushroom depictions in the 2,000-year-old tomb art of western Mexico (F rst, 1973, 1974c). Before we leave the archaeological evidence from Mesoamerica, there is one intriguing point to be made...

The Elusive Soma Deity

But that was just the problem however many species different Vedic scholars have identified with Soma in the nearly two centuries since Sanskrit was first translated into European languages, its true identity proved elusive. Soma and its sacrifice are celebrated in many hymns, but the Rig Veda was sung by the ancient poet-priests for their contemporaries, who did not need to be told what Soma was precisely, and they obscured the mysterious plant god's natural morphology with all sorts of poetic...

The Controversy Lives On

As might be expected, the identification of Soma as a mushroom was not greeted with equal enthusiasm among all Vedic scholars, nor has everyone who accepts his basic thrust that Soma was the fly-agaric agreed with each and every one of his interpretations of the ancient texts. Professor Ingalls, for example, fully agrees with the fly-agaric identification but not with his theory of urinated Soma. The most vehement criticism came from an eminent British scholar, John Brough, Professor of...

Hallucinogenic Mushrooms North of Mexico

As a matter of fact, the ethnographic and ethnobotanical situation in North America proves just that. While we have as yet no conclusive evidence that any kind of psychoactive mushroom was employed by Native Americans north of Mexico, however important edible mushrooms might have been to their diet, it is a fact that, as was noted in a previous chapter, a number of varieties containing psilocybine and other hallucinogenic compounds occur in North America, including species of Psilocybe....

The Reindeer and the Sacred Mushroom

Now, it happens that not only Siberian shamans but their reindeer as well were involved with the sacred mushrooms. Several early writers on Siberian customs reported that reindeer shared with man a passion for the inebriating mushroom, and further, that at times the animals urgently sought out human urine, a peculiarity that greatly facilitated the work of the herders in rounding them up and that might just possibly have assisted their reindeer-hunting ancestors in early efforts at...

Hallucinogens And The Sacred Deer

Almost everywhere in the New World deer were important food animals. But almost nowhere were they only that. On the contrary, few animals were so universally revered as supernaturally endowed with a special power, and perhaps none was so widely associated with shamans and shamanism. Consequently, even where deer was favorite and frequent game, its hunt was never routine, its death never casual. To eat deer meat, it seems, almost always and everywhere was at least as much a matter of feeding the...

Yaje and the Origins of

According to Reichel-Dolmatoff (1972), the Tukano attribute everything we would call art to the images that occur in the yaje dream. The striking polychrome designs that adorn the fronts of communal houses, the abstract motifs on their pottery, bark cloths, calabashes, and musical instruments all these, they say, first appeared and consistently recur under the influence of the psychedelic drink. Not only is there consensus about the forms of these motifs, but in addition their meaning is...

Snuffing and Animal

No one has contributed more to our knowledge of the symbolic content of Central and South American snuffing paraphernalia than the Swedish ethnologist S. Henry Wassen, recently retired director of the Gothenburg Ethno-graphical Museum. Wassen, to whose early studies of the ethnopharmacology and symbolism of South American frogs and toads we will shortly return in connection with what has recently been discovered about toad- and frog-poison intoxication, has over the past decade published...

Datura A Hallucinogen That Can Kill

There is another hallucinogenic plant in the mythology of the Huichols, anthropomorphized as Kieri Tewiyari, Kieri Person, whose special powers and relationship to the Sun deity are acknowledged with offerings of prayer arrows and other gifts. However, if Kieri pronounced ki-yeri is used at all, it is only rarely, in secrecy, and is generally disapproved. For many Huichols regard Kieri as a dangerous sorcerer whose effects, unlike those of peyote, may cause permanent insanity and even death....

Idolatry Hallucinogens And Cultural Survival

Almost as soon as Europeans set foot on American soil at the end of the fifteenth century, first in the Antilles and soon afterwards on the continent itself, they took note with varying degrees of fascination and revulsion of a strange indigenous custom they were later to recognize as an indispensable aspect of aboriginal religion and ritual in many parts of the New World ecstatic intoxication with different plants to which the native peoples ascribed supernatural power, and which the...

The Mosaic Completed

Nevertheless, Wasson was sufficiently a child of the scientific age not to leave it at that (he is, in fact, a meticulous and critical scholar and tireless researcher, as demonstrated by his extraordinary book on the identity of Soma 1968 and his latest work, the first definitive monograph on an Oaxacan mushroom rite 1974 ). Even before his Mazatec mushroom experience he was in close contact with Roger Heim as one of the leading mycologists in the western world, and Heim now accompanied him on...

Mycophiles and Mycophobes

In the meantime Mexican mushroom research had entered an entirely new and more public phase with the entry of the Wassons into the picture. Wasson was a banker, a vice president of J. P. Morgan amp Co. in New York his wife, Valentina Pavlovna who died in 1958 , was a Russian-born pediatrician. Wasson has often told the story of their deep personal stake in mushroom research, which received its initial impetus with his discovery, on their honeymoon, that he and she had assimilated from their...

Deer Mushroom Ecology in Mexico

As was noted in another chapter, Stropharia cubensis, reportedly the strongest hallucinogenically of all the psychoactive species found in Mexico, is a dung fungus it is typically found growing on manure in open meadows. Like other mushrooms, Stropharia reproduces by releasing countless microscopic spores from its gills into the wind, which deposits them in the surrounding grassland.* Like those of other coprophyllic species, the spores of S. cubensis do not germinate directly when they reach a...

Chemistry and Effects

Wasson (1967b), who has tried the fly-agaric on himself, has summarized what limited knowledge can be gathered from the literature on the subjective effects of the mushroom a. It begins to act in fifteen or twenty minutes and the effects last for hours. b. First it is soporific. One goes to sleep for about two hours, and the sleep is not normal. One cannot be roused from it, but is sometimes aware of the sounds round about. In this half-sleep sometimes one has colored visions that respond, at...

Mythic Origins of Peyote

I remember one elderly mara'akame (the Huichol term meaning both curing and singing shaman and sacrificing priest) of great renown, of whom it was said that he had made this difficult journey no less than 32 times on foot Walking in both directions was the traditional way, but nowadays most Huichol peyoteros make use of whatever transportation is available autos, trucks, buses, horse-drawn wagons, even the train. This is acceptable so long as all the sacred places along the way are properly...

You Will See Your Life

When every one of the companions had chewed a piece of the first sacrificial hikuri, Ram n took out his fiddle and one of the others a guitar (both homemade), and the veterans stood aside in a group to sing and dance the matewdmete into a receptive condition. In the meantime, another gourd had been filled with peyote cut into small pieces, and the initiates were not allowed to rise until they had emptied it. As the bowl was handed around, the others, led by Ram n, exhorted them over and over to...

Huichol Communion

To push the rainbow -kupuri, which only he could see, back into the Deer, Ram n lifted his muvieri (shaman's prayer arrow), first to the sky and the world directions, and then pressed it slowly downward, as though with great force, until the hawk feathers touched the crown of the sacred plant. In his chant he described how all around the dead deer peyotes were springing up, growing from his horns, his back, his tail, his shins, his hooves. Tamatsi Wawatsari, he said, is giving us our life. He...

Ololiuhqui Sacred Hallucinogen of the Aztecs

Among the several sacred hallucinogens that were apparently too vital to the individual and social equilibrium of Indian Mexico to be suppressed after the Conquest, and that took on the trappings of Christian iconography without losing their essential pre-Christian meanings, was ololiuhqui. Ololiuhqui (ololuc), an Aztec word meaning round thing, contains no clue to its botanical identity, any more than does teonanacati, food or flesh of the gods, the name by which the Aztecs called certain...

Factory of Alkaloids

Peyote is popularly identified with its best-known alkaloid, mescaline, but in fact mescaline is only one of more than thirty different alkaloids that have so far been isolated, together with their amine derivatives, from this remarkable plant, which Schultes 1972a aptly calls a veritable factory of alkaloids. Most of these constituents belong to the phenylethylamines and biogenetically related simple isoquinolines and almost all are in one way or another biodynamically active, with mescaline...

Male Female Symbolism and Acculturation

The mushroom of the origin myth is a white fungus with a large cap that is sometimes consumed in the Bwiti cult and that also plays a role in herbal concoctions. No psychoactive properties have been reported, but the mushroom has not been studied ethnobotanically or chemically. Fernandez points out several important elements in the myth. First, it clearly identifies the eboka plant with the deep forest and the Pygmies as an agent of transition that enables the people to pass from the familiar...

Discovery of Hallucinogens Deliberate or Accidental

Which brings up a point that was raised in the Introduction in relation to the plant hallucinogens in general it is almost impossible to conceive that the discovery of the transformational qualities of certain acrid mushrooms that were clearly unsuitable as ordinary food could have been anything but the result of conscious search for psychodynamic agents and even deliberate experimentation for different ways to activate or heighten their effects. As we saw, this requirement applies especially...

Introduction Of Hallucinogens

If one were to look for landmarks in the study of hallucinogens in the nearly forty years since LSD-25 was first developed in a Swiss laboratory in 1938, a good many possibilities come to mind. One would be the discovery in that same year that a cult of divine psychedelic mushrooms had survived among Mexican Indians, and the rediscovery and systematic investigation of that cult in the mid-1950's. Another would be the identification of the seeds of morning glories as the sacred Aztec...

Fly Agaric Urine and the Identity of Soma

With this we come to a crucial point in the development of the argument for Amanita muscaria, one that has predictably caused no end of debate among scholars. The psychoactive properties of the fly-agaric, we recall, are unique among the psychedelics in that they pass unaltered through the kidneys, which explains why in Siberia it was customarily taken in two forms First Form Taken directly, and by directly I mean by eating the raw mushroom, or by drinking its juice squeezed out and taken neat,...

Toad and Toadstool

Wasson (1968) also explored the whole problem of the toad's connection with Amanita muscaria in European folk usage. The English toadstool is a nonspecific term that now applies to all wild or inedible mushrooms, but Wasson showed that originally it referred to the fly-agaric, as in fact the rural French crapaudin, the toad's thing, still does. The ancient Finns also seem to have recognized a close affinity between Bufo and mushroom. In the Kalevala, the great national saga of Finland, the...

Nutmeg in European Medicine

Nutmeg achieved great importance in European medicine in the Middle Ages, but it was apparently unknown to the Greeks and Romans. In fact, it does not seem to have reached Europe until the first centuries of the Christian era, presumably through the agency of Arabian spice traders. Arab physicians set down its numerous therapeutic applications as early as the seventh century, but in Europe it is nowhere mentioned in literature until the twelfth century, and its source, the Banda (Nutmeg)...

Iboga Cults in Tropical Africa

The first significant modern anthropological examination of Tabernanthe iboga is that of James W. Fernandez, who studied its role in the Bwiti and MBieri cults of the Fang of Gabon in the larger context of reformist and nativistic African religious movements. What follows is based on a paper published by him in 1972.* In the Fang tongue T. iboga is called eboka. The principal active alkaloid is mainly concentrated in the root bark, and it is this that the Fang employ for ecstatic inebriation,...

Initiation Rites in California

An Indian so initiated would not likely have suffered an identity crisis. Would that we and our parents had been so fortunate in knowing when the psychological boundary between childhood and adulthood had been crossed In California, the toloache initiation cult originated among the Shoshonean (Uto-Aztecan) peoples of the south, but some of its features spread as far north as the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys. The puberty-rite aspect with its prominent death-rebirth theme was especially...

Hallucinogenic Snuffs And Animal Symbolism

Thus far we have encountered deer, jaguars, birds, snakes and toads in relation to the sacred hallucinogens, either in some symbolic association, or in the imagery of the ecstatic trance, or even as avatar of a particular plant. Animal symbolism is clearly inseparable from the traditional psychedelic complexes of the Old and New Worlds, and its investigation of great culture-historical and psychological interest. These final chapters will concern themselves with some of these questions, and...

Yaje and the Mythic Origins of Society

As described by Reichel-Dolmatoff (1972 97-102), the yaje-drinking ceremony commences in the communal house after nightfall with ritualized dialogues that recount the Creation Myth and the genealogies of the exogamous phratries, the origins of humanity, of yaje, and of the social order being commemorated with song and dance to the accompaniment of instrumental sounds a phallic rattle staff that symbolizes the primordial fertilizing ray of the Sun, the rhythmic pounding of wooden tubes, and the...

Morning Glory Seeds as Divinity

Actually, as the Spaniards quickly saw, ololiuhqui, like the mushrooms and other magical plants, was more than just a means of communication with the supernatural. It was itself a divinity and the object of worship, reverently preserved within the secret household shrines of village shamans, curers, and even ordinary people in the early Colonial era. Carefully hidden in consecrated baskets and other dedicatory receptacles, the seeds were personally addressed with prayers, petitions, and...

We Are Newly Born

Absolutely essential to the physical and metaphysical success of the sacred peyote enterprise is a rite of sexual purification, intended to return the pilgrims to a state of prenatal innocence. It requires all those present, men and women, to identify by name and in public each and every sexual partner since puberty. This applies even to those who will not actually make the journey but remain behind to keep the divine hearth fire one of the manifestations of the fire deity burning for the...

Tiger Tiger Burning Bright

Her dream begins with tiger eyes as the initiatory image, soon followed by many faces and sleek bodies of big cats of different colors. From these images there emerges a large and powerful Siberian tiger, an animal of grace and beauty whom she feels compelled by a great longing to follow to the ends of the world. The tiger takes her to the edge of a high plateau, from where she glimpses a deep abyss filled with liquid fire or molten gold in which many people are swimming * In man the pineal...

R Gordon Wasson And The Identification Of The Divine Soma

In the second millennium before our Christian era, a people who called themselves Aryans swept down from the Northwest into what is now Afghanistan and the Valley of the Indus. They were a warrior people, fighting with horse-drawn chariots a grain-growing people a people for whom animal breeding, especially cattle, was of primary importance finally, a people whose language was Indo-European, the Vedic tongue, the parent of classical Sanskrit, a collateral ancestor of our European languages....

Hallucinogens And Archetypes

In the preceding chapter it was suggested that visions of jaguars, anaconda snakes, and the like are expectable images in a tropical forest setting. After all, one would hardly expect psychedelic visitations from Asian tigers or African lions among the Tukano they would be even less likely here than in the urban slums of Amazonian Peru, where healers called ayahuasqueros employ the vine of the souls in the psychotherapeutic curing of super-naturally caused illnesses, especially those associated...

The Transcultural Phenomenon

Among the transcultural yaje experiences of South American Indians Harner lists auditory hallucination and visions of certain geometric forms, auras, one's own death, combats with demons and animals, bright colors, constant changing of certain shapes that seem to dissolve into one another, and the like. However, he cautions (p. 173), it must be remembered that all of the peoples who traditionally use Banisteriopsis occupy a similar tropical forest environment and, however far apart, the total...

Amazonian Indians as Psychopharmacologists

No one can tell when the Indians of the upper Amazon discovered the otherworldly effects of the vine of the souls. But we are probably not far wrong in suggesting that it is at least as old as the characteristic Tropical Forest Culture, which was based on intensive root-crop agriculture and which seems to have been well-established as early as 3000 BC or even before (Lathrap, 1970). Tukanoan mythology places the origin of yaje at the very beginning of the social order, when it is said to have...

Nutmeg and Psychotherapy

The two drugs mentioned above, MDA and MMDA, do not occur in nature. They are the result of amination of the essential oils of nutmeg. If similar processes occur naturally in the human body it would help to explain the subjective effects of nutmeg. MDA (methylene dioxyamphetamine) is an amination product of safrol, and the closely related MMDA (3-methoxy-4,5-methylene dioxyphenyl isopropylamine) is a synthetic compound derived from the addition of ammonia to myristicin, the most important...

Thwarting the Clergy

The Indians, he complains, seemed always to find new ways to thwart even the best efforts of the clergy, including himself as the investigating emissary of the Holy Office, hiding their supplies of ololiuhqui in secret places, not only because they were afraid of discovery and punishment by the Inquisition, but for fear that ololiuhqui itself might punish them for having suffered it to be desecrated by the touch of alien hands. Always, he reports, the Indians seemed to be more concerned with...

Cannabis spp

The literature on the hemp plant, Cannabis, scientific and popular, is such that we need hardly add to it here. Also, strictly speaking, its best-known modern product, marihuana, the new social drug, is not a psychedelic but an euphoriant. But there is some significant new information on the genus Cannabis that has not been widely disseminated. Moreover, the active principles of Cannabis are perfectly capable of psychedelic effect, and have been so used through history, especially in Asia,...

Found at Last A Living Mushroom Cult in Mexico

He was to be proved right in the late 1930's. In 1936 Papa Weitlaner encountered magic mushrooms for the first time in the country of the Mazatecs in Oaxaca. He sent a specimen to Reko, who forwarded it to the Harvard Botanical Museum, where unfortunately it arrived too badly deteriorated to be identified. In 1938, Weitlaner, his daughter Irmgard, and her future husband Jean Basset Johnson, on a field trip to Huautia de Jimenez became the first outsiders permitted to attend though not...

The Sacred Pipe

Considering its enormous geographic spread in the Americas at the time of European discovery, as well as the probable age of stone tobacco pipes in California, the inhaling (often called drinking or eating ) of tobacco smoke by the shaman, as a corollary to therapeutic fumigation and the feeding of the gods with smoke, must also be of considerable antiquity. Tobacco was and still is smoked by shamans and other participants in shamanic ritual in many different ways as cigarettes and cigars with...

Magical Uses of Frog and Toad Poison

Apart from the poison of Bufo marinus, which evidently does have what can be called hallucinogenic properties, the venoms of some other species of toads or frogs in South America have found uses that can only be described as magical, on occasion approximating the ecstatic state, even if from the point of view of pharmacology and toxicology their action belongs to a wholly different class. A good deal of the evidence then available from travelers, ethnologists, and other sources was brought...